Saturday, December 29, 2012

Ch Ch Ch Changes.

October:

Seen it, done it, got the T-shirt.


Made my annual trip to Skegness but, having now painted all I wanted to about the subject, and visiting the town so late out of season, it was maybe one visit too many. Sunny and quite warm, but more familiar than fun. Video of the day on THIS LINK.

I discharged myself from physio. I shall continue with the exercises they prescribed, but it’s time for me to take full responsibility for the condition of my own body.

Above: One of my paintings, Colson Bassett Church (c.2009) sold from Christie’s Framers.

December:

To re-asses one thing is to re-assess everything.

I cannot change those things which make me want to make art, but I can perhaps change the way I interpret them.

Instead of a written journal I’ve started to make a video journal for each month. The intention is to make an image for each day. An experiment intended to help bring about new ideas.

 These December sketches, taken from this month's video journal, are particularly solitary in nature, repeating the view from the studio window at passing times of the day.

You can see the December video journal on THIS LINK.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Summer success.

I’m having a good season so far. Three in an exhibition at Thoresby Courtyard (admittedly it’s their “wide open” exhibition):


One selected for the prestigious Patchings Gallery exhibition. (Work in progress for this painting on THIS LINK).

Selected as Editor’s Choice for inclusion in The Artist magazine:

My work on public display (at their invitation), at Christie Frames, and indeed the Colston Bassett acrylic sold from there:

The Malt Cross asked me if I would submit some scans of the sketches I did inside their venue, to be a part of their lottery / heritage bid:

Some of these are now more than a couple of years old, so I do like it when they get their day in the sun.

These successes were only slightly tempered by being rejected again by the Nottingham Open. They are nothing if not consistent. 

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Skegness revisited. "Skeggie Day"


About six years ago I had an idea for a painting. It was about a girl on a deserted beach. I wrote about her on THIS LINK, but never did the painting I envisaged. Instead I painted Tower Cinema, Skegness, and although I was very pleased with the result, I regret once again not sticking to my original idea. This month a friend agreed to pose for my original concept.


We had to cheat. Rather than traveling to the coast I got her to stand on a fence in Clumber Park, it presenting the right perspective of the figure against the sky. For the pier and the breakers I had enough resources already from previous trips. After the painting I also wrote the following poem:

Skeggie day.

Railcard trip to a Lincs coastline,
“Which way are we facing?” Going back in time.
A day beside the seaside, the rain did not stop play
On Skeggie day.

Snakes and ladder fingers
On the backseat of the train,
Slipping her the whiskey,
She slips it back again.
Her kite strings got in the way
On Skeggie day.

Under the Boardwalk, Up On the Roof,
Identity crisis, asking for proof.
Photographing footprints
All along the beach,
So close to the salty edge,
But always out of reach.
Walking away
On Skeggie day.

Shakin Stevens ashtrays, the bandstand had no band,
Just Betty Boop mementos for a Jolly Fisherman.
He thinks he’s on a promise, a saucy postcard date,
But Betty left too early, and the Clock Tower’s always late.
Shakey fades
On Skeggie day.

A penny for the arcade
Soon comes to push and shove,
As four and twenty seagulls
Abstained from making love,
Swoop down on deep fried chickens,
Their favoured fast-food prey.
Don’t Take-Away
My Skeggie day.

The tin skinned street art lady, trapped in her pantomime,
Waves secret hand-sign signals, that passion is no crime.
She pays for rusting tea breaks
With small change from her jar.
Her day job is a statue, by night she works the bar.
She has no time to play
On my Skeggie day.

The cinema on High Street is showing “G.I. Blues”.
They haven’t changed the program there since 1962.
A balding breathless doorman,
In braided uniform,
Has a look of recognition,
Thinks he’s seen me there before.
Checks the tickets at the kiosk,
Checks himself out in the glass.
Checks the sidewalk for a certain girl
Who’s way outside his class.
Perhaps a lack of judgement?
It’s not for me to say.
I leave him to his fate.
On Skeggie day.

Returning to the station, the train is running late.
The driver’s in his swimwear, been on a heavy date.
I take my seat inside the carriage,
Take a moment to reflect,
Take a selfie of the station sign
Not finished with me yet.
In the pages of my sketchbook
The sketches from my trips
All draw upon the good times,
Plus all the empty bits.
I’ve said too much already
There’s nothing left to say
About Skeggie day.

Now plastic Disney figures
In fairgrounds long shut down,
All chat about the Summers
When I still came around.
There’s no-one left to heed now
Their wind metallic voice,
They stand there for no reason,
They do it out of choice.
Before a wintry snowman took them all away
On Skeggie Day.

Monday, April 30, 2012

Back into the Sherwood.

Last month’s renewed motivation continues undiminished. I take a walk every morning around the block, take regular breaks in the studio, and put a frozen pack of peas on the shoulder at the end of the day’s session. I am also gently exercising to stretch the tendons. Would you believe it I then I go and break a toe? It won’t stop me.

The only thing I don’t like about art is when I have to stop. The only cure for the post-painting blues is to start the next one. At present I have two on the go, both continuing with the Sherwood Forest theme.

In both works I am wanting to express something about Time. The mangle and the farm equipment rusting away whilst the forest is simply sleeping, awaiting the Spring.

You can see work in progress videos of these paintings on THIS LINK and THIS LINK.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Sketches, syringes, and a sunrise.

High winds at the start of the year made it necessary to have my beautiful conifer cut down. I remember planting it in 1985 after a girlfriend's mum took us to a garden centre. I’m really sad to have had to lose it. (Video of its removal on THIS LINK).

The tendons in my shoulder are still giving me trouble. The cortisone jabs did nothing to improve things, and I think I’m on my third physiotherapist. Nevertheless, if I’m careful with my posture I’m still able to make art.

A little crisis helps the brush marks flow. I have actually finished my painting of Sherwood Forest Sunrise. I dread to think when it was actually started, originally as an acrylic painting. It may have been July 2010? When I abandoned it I painted over the entire tree section in black, thinking I might return to it one day and use a light over dark technique. The only thing that stopped me putting it in the bin was a small area of sky on the left. I always liked that bit. But I’m pleased with it now, and it’s good to feel I’m doing something like that again.

There are two videos of this painting progress. Part 1 on THIS LINK and part 2 on THIS LINK.
Above: The Lincolnshire Poacher, Nottingham, pub cat.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Accepted, rejected, 2011 exhibitions.

Above: Rejected by Nottingham Open 2011.


Above: Accepted, one rejected, by Patchings 2011.

Above: Rejected by Thoresby Gallery 2011.

Friday, September 30, 2011

The Poetry of Twitter 2.

Good morning July blue sky,
Coffee with Batgirl TV.
Broke my Skeggie mug.
Sad times.

Low energy levels inside.
Thunder and lightning out.
Swifts have stopped chasing the midges on high,
A sign of cooler breezes and showers to come.
Bob Dylan Radio Hour gives the time.

A young mother takes her hands from the pushchair,
Her dishwasher nails reveal the dubious fortunes of a lottery scratch card.
A lone footballing teen on the street
Tests his testosterone levels against neighbouring garage doors.
Inside,
The stress levels rise.

No fig rolls on the shelves,
No mini pizzas in the freezer.
What's so cooperative about the Co-op?

Morning on the edge of the city.
Pairs of drowsy students clutch cans of Red Bull
Whilst the early bird catches the parking space,
And the showers begin.

A pigeon on the rooftops opposite
Seems happy as the flowers to sit out in it.
A Blackbird points his beak skyward,
First East and then West,
Then ruffles his feathers knowingly
And a girlfriend from the past drops by my Facebook page.

Two days of rain.
This summer's happy days already seem
Like shiny display case memories.
But I must say,
I am partial to a bit of Ska with my cheese & onion roll.

Now overcast and hot.
The continuous beeping sound of a truck reversing.
The growing awareness I'm not gonna meet my week's targets.

Bright sun streaming into my South facing window.
That moment when the day seems full of optimistic possibilities.
Stay.


Flying ant day in Nottingham,
White powders at the ready.
Lock and load.

At the local pub relaunch tonight
Familiar faces from the past pass by.
I seem to be part of a community.
Who'd have thought it?

Hot night on the edge of the city.
Tempers flare.
Everyone is being told to get the fuck out of everyone else's fucking face.
A door slams.

Relief at the cooler breeze is tempered by
The knowledge it won't ever be quite as sunny or hot again
For another year.
A squirrel skips down the street
Pretending the tarmac is still too hot.

September sun comes.
Lines of small square lawns and empty green wheelie bins
Like suburban morse code.

Less keypad, more pencil.
I’ve completed chapter 1.

Cold pizza crust and hot tea breakfast.
Rubber band work out. Ultra sound lunch.
I think I've invented
The basis of a new Cult.

Two days in the garden,
With a wolf whistling magpie
And an over friendly robin.
More active than I've been.

Laundromat morning
Cruisin'
To ’57 in
The headphones.

A man with miss-matched eyes,
Smoking jazz cigarettes,
Takes up permanent residence in the local bus stop.


Wednesday, July 27, 2011

The Poetry of Twitter 1.

“I'm ho-ome!"
The house welcomes me back with its silent Sunday echo.

Last day of May. Sunshine on the red bench.
I peal back the green wrapper from my Cornetto.
The sound of a steel chain saw
Ripping through moist late Spring trunks and branches in the heat.

The day's vapour trails have long since turned to street lights.
I turn to music. Long time since.
Keep the carpet cluttered and the mind tidy.

A drainpipe Robin sits impatiently for me to pass so he can return to his worm.
I put on my red t-shirt, laundry warm.

Muggy night on the eve of the longest day.
On the edge of a city no-one gets too excited about going into town.
Wet roads amplify the sound of traffic,
Making night sound like rush hour.
But the pace is slow.

The rain on my open window
Turns the CD in my headphones to charity shop vinyl.
The garage door opposite is open again.
I think someone uses it to sleep in.
They might at least close the door behind them when they leave.

A girl in blue steps onto her balcony for a cigarette,
Perhaps needing permission to smoke in her own flat.
We exchange curious glances.
Hot and muggy on the streets of the city.
Cell phone ignorance blocks the way of those with a purpose.
The faintest trace of bar-b-q,
As silent dark clouds come in from the South.
And the second hand on my clock ticks louder

Sweltering heat.
A neighbour chases pigeons from the berries on his bushes.
They retreat and coo from a safe distance.
While waiting for one thing to sort itself out,
My mind makes decisions about 100 others.

Train whistle blowin',
A week away in Edinburgh.
Good timin’,
I spat on the heart against injustice.


Monday, February 21, 2011

Winter tendons.

January has been a month of some pain, ill health and stress. Whatever caused me to feel either fevered or chilled in late December seemed to have passed enough by New Year’s day for me to spend the afternoon drawing. I never know when to stop. The following day my neck and right shoulder were so stiff as to make driving manoeuvres difficult when keeping a pre-arranged trip out to Thoresby. The problem is still with me as I type. The first week in January also found me waking up with a seriously blocked left ear. As if dark nights alone were not enough. The doctor assures me the ear problem is wax, which shouldn’t prove too difficult to remedy, and that the shoulder pain isn’t anything serious and will go away in time. (“What do you want me to do about it?” being her exact words). In the meantime, I’m using it normally, but refraining from painting.

Later: The shoulder pain is worse. Surely has to be linked to my posture and artwork. Or stress? Regular anti inflammatory pills, ice packs, gentle exercise and minimal laptop from me.

February. Managed some painting by the light of the silver daylight bulb, but paint one day wipe off the next is the norm. I am sure I said these exact things last winter! The nurse made three weekly attempts at syringing my left ear before succeeding in making me stone deaf on that side. Nice work if you can get it. No Sgt Pepper stereo for me. Takes my mind off my shoulder I suppose.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Animation.

They say a change is as good as a rest. Seeing as I don’t think I do “rest” anyway, I opted for change.

Towards the end of September I decided to attempt some animation. I don’t have an animation programme on my computer, so I drew all the frames by hand, scanned them into Photoshop to add colour and / or other photographic media, and then dropped all the frames into the very basic Windows Movie Maker.

Lulu “Here Comes the Night”.

At the start of October my animation for Lulu’s “Here Comes the Night” was ready to upload to Youtube. Why I chose that song I don’t really know. The title was probably suggested by the oncoming dark nights of the UK’s winter months. (Contrary to public perception, it is the original version of the song).

You can see the finished video on THIS LINK

Goose Fair, Nottingham.

Rather pleased with “Here Comes the Night”, and interested in local history, I thought a series of 2 minute animations about certain Nottingham sites might be a good idea. The animation frames could even inspire some ideas for paintings. Goose fair is a big event in Nottingham each October. I gathered all my resources with a small camera, recording sound files as I went along.

The frames were individually hand drawn, then once again scanned into Photoshop to add colour and collage elements, before dropping them all into the very basic Windows Movie Maker and adding a selection of the sound files I’d made. It’s basic, but I like basic. My drawing style comes through.

You can see the finished video on THIS LINK.

Woodpigeon Translation.

Drawing so many animation frames provided the distraction of activity I always seem to crave. When motivation is high I go to bed at a reasonable time thinking about tomorrow's work, and get up looking forward to a day in the studio, especially if it's sunny in my South facing window. I also get to listen to lots more music this way.

November produced my best animation to date. This was intended as a promo video for the same musician friend I’d worked with in the recent past, and coincidentally driven to a live radio broadcast this same month.

For Woodpigeon Translation I had the challenge of a specific song’s instrumentation and lyrics to work with. Also, a mutual admiration for John Lennon meant he made a thinly disguised appearance, whilst a sequence from a Fred and Ginger movie informed the dance movements. Outside my studio the snow (and temperatures) reached record levels as November became December. Bad news for heating bills.

You can see the finished video on THIS LINK.


Thursday, September 30, 2010

Summer stress.

Spent the end of July and the first couple of weeks in August wiping off as much paint as I applied. Pressure. Much retreating to the duvet ensued. Had to stop. Even deleted some of my internet presence (as if that was the problem) and became seriously unsure as to what to do next. Apart from quiet strolls around Tythe Green.

Rusty Pearl came by again, a city fox I call my animal spirit guide. She stood on the patio and pointed to the empty space where I used to put out raw chicken for her, but what she was really doing was pointing out the empty space in me compared to how I was when first we met. She always communicates so clearly.

I handed in three pictures at Thoresby for their consideration, before climbing to the top of Robin Hood’s Hill and had the world all to myself.

The last week of August saw me playing guitar and singing within an after-hours jam session. A very casual affair, but it felt good after so many years. Never thought I'd be doing that again.


September started with my latest rejection slip from Thoresby Gallery. I did get one piece accepted there in 2005, but after that it's been rejection all the way. I think a big part of my current state of mind is the fact nobody wants to exhibit what I do. So it's difficult to feel a worth or a purpose. And I've never felt like that before. I always want to delete something when I'm not happy. Usually internet sites. This time clothes. Archiving my stuff (photos, CDs, videos) also helps.

The end of the month involved an incident which kind of defines my relationship with people:

A neighbour hit the guy across the street with a golf club. Then, in a state of panic and anger, knocked on my door for help. There is a history to this. The guy's dog craps on our front lawn, and he's been winding my neighbour up for some time by arrogantly waving at him. Last night he waved one time too many. But I reckon my neighbour was lucky not to have been carted away to the station. I got him to calm down before the police arrived, and that helped.

This is the kind of role I often find myself in. Why? I don’t need it.

Next day we planted a row of shrubs on the front lawn.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Sketchbook Summer.


Although very disappointed to find access to Thoresby Lake has now been fenced off, this has been the summer of the sketchbook, involving several visits to other favourite locations in which to laze, chat and draw in the sun. Clumber Park, a “palace” in Clipstone, a Papplewick pub, and of course good old Skegness, to name a few. Like the man sang, "Let's go fly a kite".

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Taking the people out of the picture. Two paintings modified.

July was a heatwave, bringing extra noise levels to the street. Indoors I decided to repaint parts of the Skegness Cinema I did in 2007. The original, as you can see, incorporated a second figure. (Thoresby called him a “dodgy looking character” when they put it in their 2007 Salon des Refusés). I myself was never too happy with his inclusion. It's a much better work now. A more personal piece.

Flushed with success I decided to eliminate the person from another painting from 2007, Peggers Inn, Nottingham. Once again it became a much more expressive piece. In both paintings the building says it all. People just get in the way.



Sunday, April 18, 2010

Malt Cross Open Mic.

At the end of March, 2010, I took a few small snapshots of the Malt Cross Open Mic Night. Music being one of my main interests I thought a series of paintings of Nottingham musicians might prove successful. The acrylic painting was completed this month. (April).

I’m really pleased with it. As with the painting of the Bell Inn jazz band, and the Jam Café reggae group, and indeed this one, all the musicians seem equally pleased. But never an enquiry regards if they’re available to buy. For a few pounds I’d let any of them go.

Similarly, the Malt Cross Gallery didn’t even reply to my request for details about possibly hiring their gallery (for money), whilst the LeftLion newspaper, apparently keen at the outset to publish such of my works free, I never heard from again.

 I’ve also sent presentations of my work to Thoresby Gallery, East Midlands Airport Gallery, and even a pub in Mansfield I hear is looking for some work to display. Nobody can say I don’t try and put myself out there.

C’est la vie.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Rejected.

This years rejections from the Patchings Gallery. Don't blame them about the tree on the left. Could do that much better. But the others? Never mind. I got in last year, and will do so again.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Winter changes into Spring.

 My hibernation period.

February was too cold to remember what I used to do in February. But I'm sure it didn't involve keeping warm in one room, as the snow piled up outside. It only encourages me to get up late, put a fire on in the bedroom, and be too easily distracted by menial tasks. Before too long it's time for bed. I hate dark nights.

March began by being bitterly sunny. Last year’s geranium on my bathroom window sill couldn’t stretch its neck any longer if it tried, trying to reach the light, and needing to get new roots into this year’s soil afore too long. No chance of that yet.

I re-assure my hot water bottle “it won’t be long now” before it can return to summer hibernation under the kitchen sink, whilst further rubber particle evidence of his decaying insides spill out onto the white porcelain basin.

No point incurring a large heating bill sat downstairs when there's nothing on the TV. So my winter webcam laptop and telephone live with me upstairs where the bed and the paints are. A man of simple needs and deeds, but stocked up on essentials for the times ahead.

March was more silent than usual, but milder as the days past. Spring is starting to spread its light right through the glass door interior of my home. I always look forward to getting out in the garden, putting in new plants. Breaking News: I've learned how to use the laundrette, having got rid of my ancient “twin-tub” last year when renovating the house.

Above: Spring Daffodils. Acrylic painting on brown wrapping paper.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Jam Café, Nottingham.

Out on the town last night. Big wheel on the Market square, Nottingham Contemporary Gallery, and various pubs. Ended the evening in the Jam Cafe listening to a small white reggae combo, "Stuck in 2nd.". Today I've stretched some paper ready to do a painting based on the night. Also intend painting the reggae band sometime soon. A good sign.

On the down side (there’s always a down side) the Bell Inn have reproduced my Jazz painting in sepia tones only and hung it outside the Gents toilet. Why do I bother?

I walked home afterwards, so my recently sprained ankle can't be too bad. When I turned the corner into my street who should be there in the streetlamp light but Rusty, my friend the fox. She always turns up at significant times. Always a good omen.

 Top: Jam Cafe, Nottingham. Acrylics with collage mixed media.
Middle: Stuck in 2nd, reggae band.
 Below: The Jam Cafe sofa.



Monday, February 15, 2010

Pizzas and Time.

All of time is divided up into little slices, and although we can initiate the first cut, as I did by leaving a job and starting out on this new adventure, we can never tell when the second cut will be made until it’s done. It can never be predicted, because all slices are not the same size. Life’s more unpalatable slices only seem bigger because they’re harder to swallow.

That last slice of Time was everything I needed it to be. Tasty. It went down very nicely. Frivolous, light, fun, active. I can view it now, just there at arm’s length, almost like a large crystal, each facet of which sparkles and reflects back at me little scenes from all that happened.

From Skeggie beeches to
Matlock’s highest reaches.
Early transatlantic bloggers.
Feeding midnight foxes.

Glue gun sets,
Video shoots along a water’s edge.
There was always water wasn‘t there?
Rivers,
Lakes,
And bridges.
There was always a bridge. (Count them).

Singer’s nights and after hours bars,
Jelly baby dashboard, country bound car.

Oaks in clearings,
Secret gardens,
Twiggy sculptures,
Pub food lunches, (the orange kind).

Acrylics,
Oilys,
Co-op pencils,
Sketchbooks in the park,
Walking home after dark.

Three pinta sessions,
Jazz in a Bell,
Hockney in town,
(He didn’t like it too well).
My own little works on the A614
Nice little gallery, never been there before,
What a shame I had to ask
For the key to the door.

Tune a day music, high on teddy shaped food,
Recording two albums by the light of full moons.
Edinburgh sketches (when I’m lucky to view),
Serve to remind
I could still learn a thing or two.

Was it really the wettest on record?
The deepest recession?
The worst floods?
The Time of the Swine?
Tsunami says yes.
Iraq says yes.
Haiti says yes.
Afghanistan says yes.

But all my crystal is saying is that it was
All sky blue.
All cool.
Frivolous, light, fun, active.
It was exactly how I needed it to be,
After all those late evenings alone in a room appropriately titled 101.

And I thank you all for that.

And now?

The next Slice of Time is underway. The blade was somewhat dulled by the cold and the snow, but it made its dividing mark just as it always must. When leaving work at the end of 2005 I kind of had a 5 year plan in mind, or at least an expectation of where my art would be by now. However, with just this one year to go it’s clear I’m not really getting there. I’m on the crusty bit of the slice.

So, I am thinking things through. I don’t want to waste my Time producing work no-one wants to see, nor do I want to accommodate other people’s “tastes” into what I do. But I do need to change my toppings, and keep the friends I’ve made, the people and places which have inspired me, seated at my table, all hungry for what is served up next.

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Into the New Year.

1st. Trying to get back to posting "a line a day" on my art blog. This time I've called it "a line for the day", so the subtle difference might excuse me when I drop the pace. The blogosphere does bring a kind pressure, and when daylight hours are so short, it does tend to use up the entire day. However, when it's so cold I don't really fancy going out to do much else anyway.

3rd. Registered an internet shop, and started work on a design for a Robin Hood mug (or whatever else people want it printed on). I intend selling Robin Hood / Sherwood Forest items via all my Robin Hood blogs. They get so many visitors it is silly not to take advantage.

5th. Just walked back from town on the ice and snow. Roads aren't bad, but the buses were cancelled and they left the time tables lit up so no-one knew. But it was a nice coffee bar and chat kind of day.

8th. Spent the day trying to get something done by way of merchandise for my Robin Hood blogs. Can't concentrate. Dribs and drabs. Plus it is very cold now. Happy Birthday Elvis.

9th. My New Year seems to have been held up in the snow somewhere, whilst I am spending too much time on the internet.

13th. Weather outside is still constantly overcast, with more snow falling today on pavements of sheet black ice.

14th. Feeling positive. I now have 2 internet shops selling / offering Robin Hood and Sherwood Forest merchandise of my own design (see below) and linked to my Robin Hood blogs. Maybe nothing will come of it, but I enjoyed producing something with such a clear objective. Maybe my New Year has finally started.

18th. Latte in the Contemporary Art gallery, before hot soup and bread rolls in the Dragon, then Jazz Night at the Bell, where I wanted to give a print of my Jazz Night painting to the band. (See below). It was received really well. Even the pub management wanted to pin it up. I granted them permission to use it as they will. Handshakes all round. A good time was had by all.

26th. Converting my old videos to digital with some success. I can get so distracted when I start archiving my stuff. Meanwhile, Ebay bought in over £2,000 this month. Not bad. Of course this cannot go on indefinitely, but it should sustain for a good while yet as I sell off the brooch collection.

31st. Just gone midnight. Emails in the dark on this last night of January. One month in to this whole new decade.


Thursday, December 31, 2009

Clumber Park, final sunset 2009.

Clumber Park, New Year’s Eve. Stood watching the final sunset of 2009 beside Cumber Park Bridge, with my Kid Sister and her two girls, having eaten lunch at Thoresby Courtyard.

The Dukeries has a way of putting me back in focus.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

December by Numbers. Part 2.

16th.

Lunch today with the musician I make promo videos for. We made about a dozen over this last year. That’s one heck of an output.

18th.

Christmas cold?

Lunch and drinks yesterday in the Malt Cross. Reluctantly I had to come home early with a really sore nose and throat. So far this morning, not too bad. Keeping a fire on, and taking regular Lemsips. The news is full of stuff about snow. As if we'd never had any in the past.

19th.

My second full day and night in the bedroom. I really don't know if I have a cold. It hasn't really manifested itself as such yet. I'm spending most time in bed with a hot water bottle. Feel kind of weak, but no real aches and pains nor obvious temperature.

21st.

The shortest day. I'm still upstairs in the bedroom, apart from a necessary trip to the co-op for groceries. I don't know if I have a cold, similar, or just really run down. Or maybe nothing at all? I think I’ve been spiralling down for a while now and, although I’m not engaged in a full time job, my work-life balance is not always good, as if my energies are spread thin. As if, at one and the same time, I have both too little and too much time on my hands.

I had planned to get 5 or 6 canvases on the go this winter. I even drew some of them out and hung them around the studio, before taking them all down and scrapping the lot. But only I am responsible for my own lack of motivation.

Two things for sure: First, whatever ails me I sure as hell coped with a lot more as a teacher. Two, I’ll be snapping out of it soon. Until then maybe these few days in the bedroom could be more about escape and retreat from the year’s shortest day.

23rd.

Let's do Christmas.

Feeling somewhat better. Tomorrow I drive over to Warsop and stay there 'til Boxing Day. I'll play it by ear, but can never stay there long. It’s a matter of sleep deprivation and screaming soap operas. But it’s a duty. Mum's flowers are in the garage keeping cool overnight. I'd also like to get into Sherwood Forest to take some new pictures of the snow there. Maybe I'll do that on the way.

26th.

Just got back from Warsop, having spent Christmas Eve through to Boxing Day afternoon there. Duty done. The television volume is always on 11, which is fair enough if one is hard of hearing. But why then do people shout loudly over the top of it rather than turn it down? Christmas dinner was at the Red Brick house with Mum and bro’. Excellent quality. Much superior to last year's fiasco at the Rose Cottage. And this year I was actually able to sleep a little at night.

Good to be back now here in my own house, cold though it might be. I really don’t like Christmas, but still feel a tinge of sadness that I can't make a little more of it. Something meaningful. It’s all just a waste of people's precious money, often getting stuff others probably neither want, need, nor have any interest in. I suppose it keeps the Oxfam shop well stocked.

28th.

Went into town for a few minutes shopping. Really unfit at present compared to the Summer months of striding everywhere. Seriously need to deal with it and snap out of this lethargy. If and when the snow returns I want to go to the forest and take some new pictures.

29th.

Completed my application for Patchings Open Exhibition 2010. Keen!


Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Rejected.

Nottingham Open have rejected all 4 submissions I made for their upcoming 2010 exhibition. This makes it three years running I've had everything I sent there rejected, and yet in the 1980s / 90s I had a really good track record with them, getting almost everything shown.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

December by Numbers. Part 1.

1st.

Sunday lunch.
Everyone talking
Almost shouting
All feigning increasingly excited expression
Vying for attention.

Feeling a need to talk
I’m waiting for a space.
I’ve been feeling some stress of late. My output-input are not balanced, and I wonder at what cost. My comments are met with agreement in that half attentive way. I always regret opening my mouth.

2nd.

Ist advent calendar door,
A chocolate cracker.
Put the fire on for the first time this year.
It’s a game I play
No surrender 'til December.
Got a card. Told to read it.
Read it.
Shredded it.
Another appointment made.
My time is always taken.

2nd door is chocolate Robin.
Had my first taste of whiskey in a long time.
5 Activity Walls last week,
Now there are 0.
As it was in the beginning.

The 5th was my birthday.
I should say something.
Given that time is more valuable than money, I cannot afford to be as lazy as I was today.

9th.

Mrs Bat limps swiftly through the rain, on her cane, scavenging the bins like a wet starling.

Mr Whale’s pants sag soggy drip baggy on the line, blubber shake belly in synchronised time.

A fountain pen from the pocket of a schoolboy's blazer drops unseen into the grass as he searches for the badge he lost yesterday.

Driftwood from ancient galleons protrude at still defensive angles from Skegness beaches, not knowing the Ibiza Wars are long since lost.

Ever more skeletal pit ponies still roam abandoned mine shafts beneath the City of Nottingham.

I hate it when we have to change the clocks. It makes them tick a little louder...


10th:

Clear winter morning skies out front. Quarter moon morning.

It's been 4 years now since I left the profession and, whilst I'm not yet where I thought I would be, I shouldn't lose sight of what an enjoyable four years they've been. I've developed more of a relationship with the city. I know which pubs and coffee bars I like to visit, and do so on my own with confidence. New relationships have brought four years of summer type day trip adventures, lunches, sketching outside, making videos.

It has also been 4 years of art gallery rejections. I've painted quite a lot over this time-span, but only had 2 accepted and hung. (There was a third piece at the outset but that was older work).

My art is one thing in which I’m definitely not where I wanted to be by this point. I need to re-connect with how I used to be, even during those years when I was much more isolated. I need to create just for the joy of it. But I don’t really know how to get back there. Activity which once felt like joy now tends to feel like appointments in which I do my duty and come away.

I sometimes wonder if that sense-of-duty mind-set the profession instilled in me during those years will forever be close at hand.

13th:

Proactive spring cleaning is a time honoured habit with me. Like deleting parts of a year or season might somehow turn back time. Fresh start, as if no Time was used. Start again with a full pack. But of course Time doesn't work like that, and I'm increasingly mindful of what time might be left.

I do find clearing, cleaning, organising and filing, very therapeutic. But I do wonder at the point of trying to replace videos with DVDs, and photo albums with discs. By the time it's all done I won’t be here long enough to enjoy them anyway.

A more positive look at 2009 than those notes I made above (see “10”) would be that I renovated the house and garden all by myself, and it looks great. That activity did mean all artwork had to stop, especially during summer, but I did get exhibited at Patchings, and the sketches I made when painting on canvas wasn’t practical, were probably the best I’ve done. Working like that, immediately onto the surface (which is how the exhibited piece was done), is how I must proceed.

And let’s not forget some great nights out.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Putting On The Style.

Lyric sheets were handed out. That shouldn’t have come as any surprise, his wife being an ex-Primary School teacher and ex-Brown Owl (whatever that means), keen to get things formally organised. So, after some furtive “Is it in tune? We have to do this first and then the snacks. Are you alright sat there? Are you ready to do it now?” dialogue, I did my song. Or perhaps rather my brother Bill’s song, he being the designated owner of that particular 78r.p.m. shellac disc stored in the white cupboard in the fabled 3 Gabled house in Thoresby Park.

I’d performed “Putting on the Style” once before for Bob. In 1984 he’d asked me to do an after dinner show in Barnstone Village Hall, and I put that song in my hour long set because he himself had sung it in a show during the skiffle years of the late 1950s. Here we were now celebrating his 65th birthday, both post-retirement.

The sing-a-long went well, after which everyone dutifully turned over their sheets as some guy out of sight from me launched into “When I’m 64”, although I had fancied staying “on” for a fun verse or two of “Winter Wonderland”, as a little girl banged her maracas with impressive skill. The piano guy fared less well than me, on account of Brown Owl had transcribed the words wrong, and attempted to re-write certain verses to fit the day. Then it was much furtive gathering of lyric sheets, and a distributing of paper plates (hand one sheet in, get one plate back), and into the kitchen for snacks.

The only person there from our shared past was Brian. I always liked Brian. His hip gives him gip now. Bob's hip gives him gip now. Two of the absent wives have undergone surgery for cancer. Let Me Die a Young Man’s Death, whilst I can still hit the high notes putting on the style.

Friday, October 2, 2009

House renovations.

999

Two young female police officers huddle in girlie chat exchanges, taking refuge from the showers inside the bus shelter. Early autumn raindrops dissolving the formality of crisp starched uniforms.

At the bottom of the hill, Friday morning’s helter skelter roundabout, like a giant Catherine wheel, spews road rage drivers from each of its four busy exits. Someone should be in charge. High above, a police helicopter observes the chaos from a safe distance.

I am on my way to the carpet shop. I am resolved to try and choose one inside of 5 minutes. Give me longer than that and I’ll probably take 5 days, or not choose at all. I just want to get the job done. I’ve been living in the centre of what seems like a building site for too many months.

I chose something vaguely light brown stone. Better quality than I have at present, and will “go with everything”. I didn’t want anything with too much character because I like to accessorize afterwards, maybe with red ochre rugs here and there. Concluding the deal the salesman asks me if Sunday will be alright to come and measure me up. I say that will be fine. I wanted to ask him if the two damp young police women could come and measure me up instead, but refrain from doing so.

Returning home I find the petrol station on the corner of the street cordoned off with the black and yellow striped tape indicative of a crime scene. Apparently, at 10.30 daylight, they were robbed. It’s Friday. I hope they didn’t take all the jelly babies.

 
New.

The “old year” came to an end in the final days of October. A few weeks earlier than usual, due to the recession’s effect on carpet manufacturers.

Ring, ring. Ring, ring.
“Hello?”
“Mr Craig?”
“Yes?”
“It’s Dean, mate. Carpet fitters. We’ll be at your place this afternoon. ‘Round about 3, mate, if that’s alright”.

It was more than alright.

My interior house renovations have been going on for about a year. When I decide to change something I can be rather drastic and impulsive. Jump first, then see how deep the water is, then swim however hard is necessary to make it work out. So it was that new interior doors last summer began a process that lead to an attempt at sound insulation this, with much painting of walls along the way. Now the carpets. It looks great and, perhaps for the first time, feels like home. Maybe that’s because I only ever really knew it before as the roof I slept under after work.

I stood in the kitchen waiting for the arrival of Dean the carpet fitter. More than once a blue transit van zoomed past, its front and rear ends set at Wacky Racer cartoon angles; the passenger’s face buried in a huge unfurling road map as rolls of carpet protruded over his shoulder from the rear, and the driver visibly relished his grip on the wheel. On his third pass I waved him down, his blue transit van screeching to a pit stop halfway across my lawn. The paint job on the van fails to successfully cover the logo of a previous owner.

“35? Couldn’t find you mate. Looked everywhere. Carpets, mate. Mate, put the kettle on.” Dean has arrived, and proceeds to stride around my house, assessing the situation, “No problems, mate”, before tuning my radio to Trent FM and turning up the volume in the hope of hearing some Paul Weller. His accomplice, Don, is one of those people who answer absolutely everything you say to them with “Eh?” Not only that, but Don is obviously in competition with Dean regarding the “mate rate” of each sentence:

Dean: “Pass us the spray, mate”.
Don: “Eh?”
Dean (mimicking): “Eh? Eh? The spray, mate, the spray.”
Don: “Mate, I told you, mate, you ‘ave to speak up a bit mate. Mate, I’m looking. I can’t see where you put it, mate.”
Game set and match to Don. Next game commences with the next sentence. And on and on and on.

Dean has the Big Stories. Apparently he was once run over by a car, after which he stood up in the road screaming to the driver “Is that the best you can do?” at which point the offending car allegedly reversed backwards and drove over him again. Don corroborates his story, testifying to having seen the tyre marks across Dean’s chest. Further evidence comes on the second day of the fitting when Dean rolls up his tracksuit bottoms to show me his hugely swollen purple kneecap, the spectacle of which Don likens to “a hard-on, mate”.

But credit where it’s due. At the end of the two days they’ve done a really thorough job. When I express this to Dean he’s nearly welling up, and asks me if I’ll write that comment on the receipt for his boss to read. Apparently his boss "likes reading compliments". I feel like I’m filling in a pupil’s daily report form. He says he wishes all customers were like me. I reckon he’s got a man-crush. But don’t ever mention such “tendencies” to anyone from Mansfield, not unless you want them to place a well-aimed swollen purple hard-on of a knee cap in your face, mate.

And then they’re gone.

Putting books and objects back on new shelves is a pleasure to indulge in over at least a full weekend. I position a few objects at a time before reclining back in the swivel chair, pondering over their placement, drinking coffee from my Clumber Park mug. It’s a task which can’t be rushed.

Then the mild T-shirt weather of this autumn makes the temptation of Goose Fair doughnuts especially irresistible. I haven’t been on a Fairground ride in years. Maybe being single has something to with that? But my spirits are so high that only the prospect of the view from the heights of the Big Wheel can appease me.

So, Happy Early New Year Ian Gordon. I shall be spending this first weekend of this next chapter in life’s adventures, sorting, positioning, and in some cases discarding bits and pieces of what was here before. Bliss beckons.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Another august evening.

It has been a perfect blue and blustery day, and looks set to continue being such into the afternoon. No matter how perfect the weather outside, such days also lend themselves all too readily to perfect spells of cat nap dreaming within, and that, combined with Joyce’s “Dubliners”, has been the focus of much of the day. I shall write my journal entry now, before retreating to the garden bench for sunset tea and jammy dodgers. The jammy dodgers have been bought especially for this purpose just a moment ago, my short walk to the nearby garage shop taking me past that rather dubious “Arian” looking local gent, seated as he sometimes is upon the low wall opposite, his white hair visible in the low shade of the tree. He hates talking to anyone, and I couldn’t resist confronting him with a cheery “Hello”, and some banal comment about the “lovely day”, forcing a response before moving on.

I’m “old school” when it comes to cheery hellos and charming chat with strangers. Last night in Nottingham gave me ample opportunity to exercise such skills; the skills I saw practised on several occasions by my father in the working man’s pubs and clubs of Warsop. And that’s how it should be. Not everyone will agree, preferring to be wrapped up in a world of their own noise, oblivious to the sounds around them. And some will show visible signs of surprise when offered a courteous “thank you” for their services, or perhaps the “take one for yourself mate” tip I extend. Noisy people are generally of no lasting consequence. One rarely remembers the winds, only the flowers they momentarily felled.

Patricia the Show Girl (I have no idea of her real name) is also “old school”. She recognised me last night in The Bell Inn from the time before; the time she saw the light of my camera screen in the darkness above the heads of her audience. So it was nice having a little banter with Patricia the Show Girl. Maybe one day I’ll get close enough to find out her story, without seeming to pry or cause distress. She reminds me a little of the day patients my Kid Sister used to work with as an Art Therapist in Newcastle; especially those women, who had long since become institutionalised and whose behaviour was never again going to quite align with that of the outside world.

Dave the Fish Guy is definitely “old school“. He doesn’t do what he does to sell fish, he does it to put on the white hat and coat and stroll amongst us. It’s the little details, like the bow tie, and the baco foil basket with its carefully printed label, which give him away. Such details say only one thing: “Show time”. Dave the Fish Guy hasn’t got a computer, and one can imagine with what care a friend would have printed that label for him. Another give away regarding the reason Dave the Fish Guy does what he does was in his asking price for my taking a photo of him. Any other market trader would have expected a purchase in return for posing, but not Dave the Fish Guy. His stated price was to be photographed alongside the musician friend I was with. I posted him that photograph today.

At present, Nottingham is proving an exceptionally sociable place to be. Once again I had to walk home, having got the bus times wrong. But a suspected ingrown toenail doesn’t seem to have objected too much, thanks perhaps to the Russian elastoplast technique I found on the internet. I feel like I’m relating to the city in a way I’ve never quite done before, even though I once spent countless hours behind its club land doors. (Maybe I too was once one of the noisy ones who never listen.) I like it that my sketches for two of the venues come up on the first search pages of Google. It gives me ideas for how I might combine my love of portraiture with an environment still related in part to the Dukeries. I think the coming months will see a resurrection of my art blog as a more Nottingham based site. There does seem to be a little undercurrent of creative things happening here. Even David the Hockney is on his way, or at least a retrospective of his work at the Contemporary Gallery.

It’s been a strange kind of Summer. Not at all the kind of Summer I might have wished for, and certainly one in which I spent far more time than expected within the confines of these walls, living as if on a building site, exerting muscles and sinews not usually taxed to such a degree, installing some measure of sound insulation. My neighbour tells me Summer officially ended yesterday. That’s not true. Summer cannot possible end until the children are all back inside school. And even then, we can all make wishes for an Indian Summer of sunny mid September outings.

Outside is still blue and blustery. I shall go and devour my jammy dodgers, before relishing a night of solitary TV, but feeling a lot less alone.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Thinking about Elvis, August 2009

Elvis died August 1977.

The big white cupboard with the bright plastic 1950’s handles, to the left of the tiled fireplace, is where we kept our records. Well, that’s where we kept almost everything related to communal leisure pursuits. From the large wooden needlework box, to an assortment of simple board games; and from the all but forgotten pages of a great grandfather’s sketchbook, to the sea captain’s black writing chest. If it was to be shared, the big white cupboard was where it could be found.

Of course the majority of these records were of the large, shellac, 78r.p.m. variety, lying dormant in the dark recesses of that cupboard for 53 weeks of the year, only to be disturbed by my father’s Hogmanay celebrations, for which the entire nearby village of Perlethorpe would seem to cram into our room. Not surprisingly then, the titles would favour endless Scottish reels by Jimmy Shand and his Band, alongside the bland British version of “popular music” epitomised by the likes of Malcolm Vaughn‘s “You Are My Special Angel”, with just a smattering of Tommy Steele and Jim Dale. (I still have the latter). I think the only American record present was Harry Belafonte’s “Mary's Boy Child”. Not for our family the vulgar excesses of Johnnie Ray.

Anyway, it was at the age of 9 or 10 years old, that my attentions were diverted away from the little silver fish which would sometimes scarper across the tiled hearth of the fireplace, to the shiny shellac and vinyl discs inside that cupboard. And two in particular, which were smaller than the rest; these being the new-fangled 45r.p.m.s which heralded the change from “popular” to “pop”.

I cannot imagine for the life of me how or why Elvis Presley made his way into our home. Of course I thought I knew what “rock and roll” was. I thought it was anyone who wore bright clothes and came on last on “Sunday Night at the London Palladium”. Surely Alma Cogan was rock and roll, and Liberace, and certainly Tommy Steele must have been judging by the full colour picture of him on Big Sister’s wall, wearing a blue shirt with red guitar. I had no idea that Elvis pre-dated both Tommy and Jim Dale by at least three years. So imagine how I felt when I first played those pieces of black vinyl with the triangular centres? It was akin to opening my “Lion Comic for Boys” (the one with World War 2 battle stories throughout), and having a topless picture of the “Picture Book” lady from “Watch With Mother” fall out. Even more, it was like discovering something which had hitherto been kept secret, and which no-one else appeared to know about; as if it had been planted for me in that cupboard by hands unknown, the final piece in the jig saw picture of dawning teenage puberty.

I soon discovered that the ideal place for playing my new found obsessions was the little used Dining Room at the rear of the property and nearest the road. It was here that the hollow space beneath the floor boards, aided by the penny I taped to the record player’s arm for extra weight, (everyone knew that particular trick), would enhance the sound of the track, sending it resonating out into the surrounding forest. I had no concept of what song was current, or new. To me they were all records. Danny Kaye sat easily alongside Lonnie Donegan on my play list. All that mattered was the magic of the sound. And there was no sound more magical than Elvis.

The intro to “Dixieland Rock” is long, building up the tension, anticipating the moment when Elvis will start to sing. I would try and guess that moment, trying to come in at the same time as him: “Well down in New Orleans at the Golden Goose, I grabbed a green eyed dolly that was on the loose”. What the fuck? I had no idea what he was singing about, but long before I even saw a picture of him I knew how he moved. Yet to this day I still come in on the wrong beat on that intro.

But the real slice of heaven came as the b-side to “It’s Now Or Never”, where Elvis’s superior post-Army vocal chords slide in unison with the honeyed left hand of Floyd Cramer pumping the ivories, whilst the doo-woppin’ Jordanaires urge them both on from the sidelines: “You say that you love me, and swear it to be true, well a’ think that’s fine if you ain’t lyin’, just make me know what t’do”. That moment was like Gabriel had arrived with his horn. No digitally enhanced CD will ever match the sound of the first few seconds of “Make Me Know It” as it reverberated atop those hollow floor boards, courtesy of a portable mono record player, not forgetting the all important penny taped to the arm for extra bass. Nothing ever will.

It would be a year or so before we got to see what Elvis looked like, aside from a smattering of out of date pictures in Big Sister’s comics (the editors of which surely favoured the safer home-grown sounds of Cliff Richard). We were on holiday in Ingoldmells, near Skegness, and “G.I. Blues” was playing at the cinema. In spite of, or quite possibly because of the film containing such dubious family oriented items as “Wooden Heart”, from that moment on Elvis Presley was a kind of constant “presence” in our house. Another reason might be that Kid Sister was conceived in the same week as seeing that movie, courtesy of a fault in Durex’s quality control!

Soon after those days spent bombarding Thoresby woodlands with sounds from the big white cupboard, my Big Sister would embark on a love affair with emerging mop-top heartthrob George Harrison. In the years to come I would be caught smuggling copies of Sgt Peppers around grammar school, just as my Middle Sister would subsequently scream her lungs out over David Cassidy, to be superseded in turn by Kid Sister becoming the first (and only) punk in Warsop. But we ALL came back to playing an Elvis record from time to time. It kind of united us when apart, and at family gatherings wild renditions of “Lawdy Miss Clawdy” were the order of the day. We were a kind of Elvis family.

On August 16th., 1977, I was at “home” in my parents’ house, watching the TV. Mother came through on her way to the downstairs toilet. Whilst she was in there the news came: “We are getting unconfirmed reports from Memphis, Tennessee, that Elvis Presley has died”. I started thinking how I could best break that news to mother when she left the toilet. Such are the mundane details which define our lives. Kid Sister was also at “home”, and we spent the following hours of the night and well into the morning listening to non-stop Elvis on Radio Luxemburg. It was hard to believe someone who had in part orchestrated our lives was gone, and yet at the same time it seemed somehow “right”. Warning photographs of a “fat Elvis” had never appeared in the British press, and he hadn’t really been near a recording studio for the last three years of his life, preferring to gig instead on an almost nightly basis. But he was, after all, 42 years old, and at the time we thought that Old. Strange to look back on that now, when the generation of performers who followed Elvis still tour in their late sixties.

The people gave Elvis the title of “The King” way back in the late 50s, and without being prompted. Unlike Michael Jackson who had a similar title because it was stipulated in his contract. But as Lennon once said, “Don’t worship dead heroes simply because they’re dead”. And I don’t. I “worship” Elvis partly because he was the greatest white blues singer that ever lived, but mostly because of something which was ignited in me by the contents of that big white cupboard to the left of the tiled fireplace.

Monday, August 10, 2009

August evening.

In the garden. Sunset to the left, not that I can see its departing orb behind the rooftops. Two pigeons coo in the trees to the right, sexually and lovingly fulfilled. Above me, airliners like small silver bullets leave their white vapour trails across a sky bluer now than recent days have seen. Occasionally there’s a rumble across the heavens (I hate that phrase) as they push to gain altitude. Decades ago I painted the portrait of an air hostess. She sent it back this year. Or was that last year? They had no room for it. And I have no sense of time.

It’s muggy. I like muggy. I like muggy better than duvet.

It’s been a good day. Emulsion paint has given way to spirit based undercoat, bare timber has turned white, and I have two new blinds up in the kitchen. Last night was not a good night. I have a second recurring dream, worse really than the one about the open back door which I can never lock. Maybe if I write it down like I did the last one I’ll break its spell:

The dream finds me having to go back to work at Bridgford. I don’t know why, but it seems someone made an error and I couldn’t leave yet after all. In the dream I have no control over the classes. No-one is listening to me, and I’m forced to scream louder and louder and louder, but still I never get anyone’s attention. I wake up alarmed and distressed. The dream bears no resemblance to the reality of my working life there which, in the main, was a ball. Maybe I’m not in control of my life right now, and the dream is a manifestation of that state, using familiar terms of reference from the past through which to “speak” to me. I don’t know. Maybe I don’t have the “open door” dream anymore because I’m less afraid to “open up” and reveal myself, and this new dream is a consequence of that because now I’m no longer in control. I don’t know. But enough about dreams.

A young couple with a baby have moved into the house opposite. It’s a nice sound. Every evening he seems to come home with something new for their garden: Wind chimes; a Buddha; ornamental animals. And he rides a multi-mirrored mod scooter. You have to like people like that.

As for my own garden, I intend moving that around come September. The tree I bought with a previous girlfriend years ago, seems to be naturalising, extending beyond the 4 metres maximum height I was assured, and producing untidy bushy side shoots. One has to “wait until the sap stops rising” before trimming trees. But then again, rules are made to be broken. She would have known. She never waited ‘til my sap stopped rising before leaving. (Never mind the bushy side shoots).

What now? Another mug of tea in my Workhouse souvenir mug? Or wine? One last hot tea I think. Time enough for wine later.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Muse.

I’m never really sure what my muse looks like. I envisage her as a kind of composite being, looking like no-one I've ever known, and yet evoking memories of them all. Her hair, as with her eyes, might be taken at one and the same time as being dark or light, the image is never that clear. Which is, of course, exactly as it should be. To see one’s muse with clarity is to surely chase it away. I should know. I’ve lost a few.

But I do know where she sits when she wanders in to talk to me, and I do recognise her voice as being distinctly different from the other voices which linger here. She sits on the edge of my bed, holding a conversation in my mind, exploring ideas whilst encouraging me in her own subtle kind of way to “just do it”. Subtlety is one of her greatest gifts. If she simply told me what to do I’d no doubt do it, but I’d stubbornly fuck it up like a child when told to tidy his room.

“You’ve stubbornly fucked a lot of things up”.

Ignore her. That’s simply not true. It’s just the kind of stuff she’ll come out with to get me started. I don’t want to argue with her right now. Good things can come of arguments, I know, but they can also be so tiring. Especially when carried out within the arena of one’s own mind.

She wandered in this afternoon, sometime after the point when I discovered I’d bought yet another tub of “wall filler” not suited to the current task in hand. I have a virtual room full of such tubs. I can’t seem to get on with the job, and I think maybe it’s the disruptions to the house that have both unsettled me and stirred the ghosts.

“Tell about the ghosts idea”.

Well, it’s nothing much, but as I transform the rooms within this place I can’t help but recall what each room looked like in previous times, and the things which happened therein. Having now lived here longer than I ever expected (and now unlikely to move), there are a lot of memories attached to each corner. This gave me the idea for some short films…

“Do it”.

That wasn’t very subtle. What happened to the “conversation in my mind, exploring ideas” bit?

Her silence is tangible. Maybe that’s why I question the worth of my ideas more these days. This month in particular I've been far less confident. Ignore her. I shall write what I set out to write.

“That’ll be a first”.

Harsh. I always write what I set out to write. It’s just that I don’t always keep it. That’s always been my dilemma: Desiring to shout everything out loud, but impeded by an equally strong urge to hide beneath the duvet. Anyway, to continue, this post was originally intended simply to be a summary of July. But what to say?

July was
Too much wine.
Too much rain.
Detached (did I already say that about June?)
Distant (did I also say that about June?)

“Deleted?”

Almost deleted. July is always disappointing after the anticipations of June. It never lives up to the advance hype bestowed upon it by the fanciful machinations of my own mind. Apart from a few notable and hugely enjoyable distractions, the calendar above me reads like a series of appointments to be kept rather than a life to be lived.

“Dentist?”

Exactly. July 15th to be precise.

“Admit it, you’ve missed me”.

Well, it’s been a while. My fault entirely. Stay.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Thoughts on June 2009.

June was: Kind of distant. Well, just distant really. A Space. Well, not even a space at all really. More like a missing space. A Space where the space should have been. Like that bit when a football crowd sings a song, and they don’t follow the tempo, they just leap right in with the next line. No gaps. Like one of those Youtube vlogs where people edit out the pauses. But the pauses were meant to be my bit. I might have wanted to put something in the pauses.

June was a motivation wall of “Set the task do the task” tactics. A system to take me from a number 6 round to construction site heavy. It worked well.

June was getting back on a gallery wall in a space somewhere very far away from my mind and thoughts.

June was a crossroads car crash.
   
June was Kelly Lamp webcams. PC paraffin perfection in the heat of the night.

June was sometimes unsteady on its feet.
June was conversations cut short and accepting of defeat.

June was invested in the future,
June couldn’t get here any sooner.
But she tried.

June put out with the empties in fortnightly rotation.
Brown plastic blooms for a recycled generation.
It was always brown bin day in June.

June was hotter than last year. You can’t ask for more from June than that. It’s her job, to come "bursting out all over", and then leg it before the children come home from their own personal wars, and take out their shell-shock depression on my own personal parklands, scattering fast food footprints as they pass. That’s her job, she did it well. June cannot be blamed for the consequences.

June was Joe Meek revisited.
June was filming in the park.

June was singularly single minded.
June spoke highly of you from a distance which was not of my making. (I think that’s where all of my spaces went to.)

June was nice enough to eat,
But not the sort to take home to mum,
Better to send a postcard instead.
June’s good at postcards.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Jeremy.

There was no bar code tag on the squeaky pig I was buying for a friend, so the checkout guy sent for assistance. The assistance was Jeremy.

"There's no tag on this Jeremy".

"No tag..."

"I need a tag so I can get the bar code".

"Bar code..."

Jeremy repeated everything. Not that he was seeking confirmation of what he'd heard, but rather so he would remember it.

"So, can you go and get me another one so I can get the code? I think they're near the flowers".

"Near the flowers..."

Jeremy exhaled his words, making a similar sound to the tag-less black plastic pig at the center of all this attention, and I cruelly wondered if his breath also smelled of rubber.

"It's the larger size", I offered, trying to be helpful. "There are two sizes. This is the bigger one".

"Bigger one..." And away Jeremy shuffled whilst I small talked at the till. Inconsequential pleasantries with strangers; mutual signals that we mean no harm to each other whilst meeting here on this unfamiliar piece of land.

After a while Jeremy shuffled back. I could see from a distance he'd picked the smaller size, but in the same color. He could have brought back the big pink one, and the bar code would have been okay. But he brought back the small black one, which was not.

Jeremy clearly matched the price of things according to color, and not their size. I liked that. So did the checkout guy.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Collaboration.

I’ve never either accepted commissions, or chosen, to do portraits of people I don’t know. For me, using a model is a process based on a level of collaboration rather than instruction. And the nice thing about collaborating with other creatives is it brings out different ideas, encouraging experimentation.

Above: “Under the Bridge” was a joint venture. Outsize masks were made in advance of photographic resources being made at Lady Bay Bridge, Nottingham, and on a small pier beside Thoresby Lake. It’s clearly about the two sides of a character we all of us have within us.

Above: This large oil pastel drawing was originally intended as a study for a painting, but I thought I’d never capture the spontaneity in the drawing a second time. The collaboration this time involved communicating between two cities, explaining in small drawings what I wanted, and benefiting from the model’s interpretation of those drawing posing by herself in front of her camera. The resulting drawing is one of my personal favourite pieces.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Catch-up with ketchup.

Today was Big Sister day, and by special request I was recruited to show her 'round all the places in Perlethorpe we played as kids: The primary school, the tree, the village green, the Hall, etc.

At the end of our nostalgia trip we did Panini Heaven (a.k.a. Dead Fly Cafe) lunch. The cook there now recognizes me and talks. This should be a good thing. But I've never been "a regular" anywhere. In fact I've always studiously avoided it. So I'm not sure I like being recognized. Perhaps if I stopped having the Panini she'd forget me. But that's far too big a sacrifice to make.

Anyway, a memorable day for sure, at the end of which she took away one of my Major Oak “trees” (a very small grown from acorn sapling which have been thriving well this past couple of years, and destined now for her garden in Perth.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Acceptable.

A letterbox full of returned A4 prints usually means rejection. However, this year there was one print missing; retained for gallery use: My painting of Colston Basset church has been accepted for the Patchings 2009 Exhibition.

Of course one is then left pondering “Why that one, and not one of the others?” (A pastel portrait of a musician friend, and Byron's Fountain). But I can see why: The painting looks like the moment it was created in. Spontaneous; scant regard for fussy detail in preference for bold brush strokes, colour, contrasting tones, and a striking composition. In fact, not to be immodest, I had a sneaking suspicion that, if any were to be accepted, this one would be it. It’s almost “commercial”.

So, good news. A painting I enjoyed doing (and did quickly), using a subject I care about, in a style I intended continuing with anyway, has been found “acceptable”. Finally, following last year’s disappointments, I have gotten a little “in”; a little “direction” which I can build on with future works.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Jazzed.

(Written after a day walking in Thoresby and a night of live jazz at the Bell Inn, Nottingham).

Sand in the sandwiches wasps in the tea.
Panini cheese ham dribble rush
On beetroot relish toasta rye,
Not I said the fake Fly with my little eye.

I’m not even pissed.

Too high to climb,
Too low to fall,
Pussy willow catkin forest floor,
Thoresby lakeside antics,
Budby Tea shop antiques,
Just like the time before.

I’m not even pissed.

“That was a great set tonight”. I stopped the drummer on the staircase, expressing my admiration. He looks familiar, like someone I’ve performed with before. Probably not. I also wanted to express my appreciation to the singer, but standing there at the urinal with his cornet cock in his hand, head bowed in solemn “guys don’t talk in the gents” solemnity, I decided it wasn’t a good time. But he was good. Very good. I liked that at least he expressed his
On mic appreciation
Of my small collection glass donation
To his jazz band cornet cause.

And earlier to the barmaid: “Was that you singing and playing piano last Wednesday?” She acknowledged it was, unsure of my intentions. I told her how I’d enjoyed her set, and that I felt she deserved greater respect than she had been shown by those around her. And I’m not even pissed. She was glad of the recognition.

Sand in the sandwiches wasps in the tea,
Photoshop print fake,
Monday soiree.

“I think these are beautiful. Do you like them?”
No. I don’t like them. It’s all too easy to make with the fake.

I’m not here to lie.
I’m here to climb trees,
I’m here to whoop with delight,
I’m here to watch blue haired torn tights and drunk nights college girls groove to the moves she didn’t know she knew
After a misspent childhood on Britney
Parental play Chesney
Aussie soap speak Kylie
And tell me whatcha want Spicie.

But she’s finding it now.
Her body sways, oblivious to the room around,
Brass jazz sound surround,
She sways in time,
Discovery sublime,
And her coin in the glass
Lands on mine.

Remember. Remember what that was like when you wake tomorrow. Don’t forget. Remember.

Sand in the sandwiches wasps in the tea,
Words on the painting
Bo Diddle Eee.
Blues in the garden,
Mandolin street,
Reds in the relish,
Beat root sweet.

There are no zombies on this bus.

Monday, March 30, 2009

On set.

I have no idea what time it is. I didn’t know whether I was meant to put the clocks forward or back, and that was a couple of days ago. But I do want to keep some track of Time here.

March has seemed rather quiet, especially for such a month renowned for its characteristic winds of change. I remember at some point in February, probably when sorting out my applications for this year’s exhibitions, that I’d try and keep a pace of producing one substantial canvas painting per month. However, all intended schedules went out the window when I got involved with a conman “wall insulator”, at which point my “home” became the building site it remains tonight, after I mistakenly rushed to pull up carpets. No matter. Everything has its time, and the Time for me to do the job will be the warmer months. But I have been creatively active. In fact, almost non-stop.


March evenings have found me happily engaged in my studio, firmly attached to my glue gun (often quite literally so), constructing sets for the next round of promo videos I make for a musician friend. It’s a refreshing challenge, responding to someone else’s creation. Less “isolated” than the long grueling hours of “picture painting” I have now come to reject. I really don’t think I have any more “pictures” left in me, apart from one or two “fallen trees” I’d maybe like to paint if only for myself. “Picture painting” all seems so pointless. A simple quest for technical virtuosity which in my case just concealed all the deeper ideas I wanted people to see. Maybe they did, maybe they didn’t.

And that’s also why the video work is so rewarding. Sets are constructed quickly whilst the relevant music plays, like “action painting”, then changed around and modified, viewed as a camera lens will view it, but never truly coming to life until the human element is introduced, at which point everything changes yet again to accommodate new thoughts. In a word: Art.

So the winds of March maybe did come along after all, except this time they were a little quieter and more internal than the one’s which tore my fences down last year.